The first annual L.A. Weekly film critics poll — in which I was asked to participate — has announced its results, based on your typical inverted-point scoring system, and the findings of course offer a fascinating look back at the year of 2006, and plenty of grist for the mill depending on whatever one wishes to argue.
First off, hearty props go out to the erudite Scott Foundas for the marshalling of effort and resources involved. It’s hard to believe it’s the first such undertaking on the part of the 800-pound gorilla that is the L.A. Weekly, but as a former writing, forever hard-charging editor-in-chief myself, I can sympathize with the extra amount of work and time it involves at a time of year that offers precious little breathing room.
Now, some fleeting, on-the-fly analysis: the Top 10 films are an interesting collection, and further proof, in case you needed it, that we film critcs are a wonkish bunch. As far as forward-looking awards prognostication, you can throw out half of the bunch — Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows, as well as Three Times, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, L’Enfant and David Lynch’s Inland Empire, which garnered more than five times as many mentions as Babel. You can unfortunately probably do the same for Paul Greengrass’ brilliant United 93; there’s simply too much old guard resistance to it amongst Academy Award voters, especially those residing in New York City.
Borat was an inspired inclusion at #9, and it was heartening — in its own special way — to see Dreamgirls place… drumroll, please… #66, with only two critical mentions. This reinforces the notion that the movie, its crowd-pleasing elements notwithstanding, is chiefly a collection of performances (Jennifer Hudson’s strident belting, Eddie Murphy’s “James Brown in a hot-tub,” etc.) in search of some believable hurt or love, particularly in its third act.
Best Actor was a tie between Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat). Best Actress was Helen Mirren in a runaway, though Laura Dern polled surprisingly strong for Inland Empire, with twice as many tallied points as the next runner-up, Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal). Best Supporting Actor went to Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children and, in another tie, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu‘s Luminita Gheorghiu and Half Nelson‘s Shareeka Epps placed even in points for Best Supporting Actress, though the former had one more ballot mention. In another great year for non-fiction films, in a vote I could scarcely agree with less, Darwin’s Nightmare took the nod for Best Documentary.
For a list of winners in the category of Best Film, click here, and then toggle around to the listings for the other categories; for my ballot of the moment, click here.